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CE Manufacturers Embrace Connectivity

Companies open up app development, giving radio a way to remain relevant

LAS VEGAS — Some 50 percent of cellphone sales are smartphones. The proliferation of these devices influences automakers and consumer electronics manufacturers as they strive to entice young car buyers and consumers who want to upgrade their in-dash receivers to full-blown large-screen infotainment systems.

By 2014, an estimated 70 percent of consumer devices will connect to the Internet, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. The trend of extending the “digital lifestyle” into vehicles is apparent as more drivers connect their smartphones into the dash. Automakers and aftermarket receiver manufacturers plan to make more use of big-screen infotainment systems and to give consumers more control over content on those big screens as well as cloud storage options.

How many apps can be displayed on screen displays is a question in play. And developers race in hopes of positioning their apps on the first screen that pops up when a driver activates a device.

Automakers are starting to crack open the door on proprietary systems and launching “development houses,” a way for car companies to communicate directly with third-party developers — with the goal, among other things, of making apps safe for use in a vehicle.

Radio in all its forms is part of this evolution, be that analog AM and FM, HD Radio, satellite radio and Internet radio.

What follows is some of the more notable news from the Consumer Electronics Show.

Automakers Balance Connectivity, Safety

Automakers are thinking about safety and functionality as they look to the future of big-screen infotainment system designs. They’re also using smartphone connectivity to entice young consumers into buying new cars.

Customers expect to bring their digital lives in their vehicles and don’t want to have to work hard to make that work, said Nick Pudar, vice president of planning and business development for GM’s OnStar. GM is opening up its API to other developers so they can customize apps that are safe for the Cadillac Cue and Chevy MyLink, for example. Both systems include Pandora, Stitcher, TunedIn, iHeartRadio and Slacker, for example.

Livio Founder/CEO Jake Sigal applauds this trend, saying automakers are moving towards a common app standard for the car. “We realize you don’t want an app setting off an airbag. People can Facebook themselves into a tree.”

For previous generations, driving a car meant freedom, whereas today’s 20-somethings seem less interested in cars. “They let their parents drive them around in a comfortable car,” a phenomenon that is “frightening” for automakers, according to Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for the car electronics division of Pioneer Electronics.

GM Chief Infotainment Officer Phil Abram also said the future is not just about connections but safety. “A car is 3,000 pounds of metal going at 65 miles-per-hour. It’s not your smartphone.”

Connect With Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer

 The Alpine CDE-HD148BT CD/HD Radio receiver is one of the new head units compatible with Alpine’s TuneIt app.Experts say receiver trends tend to show up in aftermarket receivers first, because the process of adding to a car platform takes much longer.

Alpine, Kenwood and Pioneer are among aftermarket receiver manufacturers planning to increase their connected car offerings. Trends include in-dash apps for Facebook and Google Local Search; apps that let you control the car with your phone; and voice-controlled dashboards.

Alpine plans a free TuneIt App in March to coincide with release of three compatible head units. Users can download the app onto iOS and Android smartphones and create a user profile including their particular vehicle and sound system. They can swipe and pinch the app to adjust sound settings like time correction or parametric EQ and create settings or choose from presets. Beginner app users are called “roadies” while more advanced users can reach “Master Golden Ear” level.

The Alpine CDE-HD148BT CD/HD Radio receiver is a head unit coming in March that’s compatible with the TuneIt app. The user can control Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone or wireless Bluetooth-connected Android phone; and the unit features a port to connect to a separate SiriusXM 2.0 tuner. It lists for around $300 and features App Direct Mode, which allows basic control of iPhone apps; applicable metadata information from the app is displayed on the head unit. Alpine plans to expand this feature to more CD receivers and audio/navigation units.

Continuing with the connected car theme, Kenwood plans to introduce approximately 40 aftermarket receivers. Thirteen include HD Radio; 30 control a Pandora app on a connected smartphone. The company also is expanding control of the Aha app and introducing control of iHeartRadio control on mobile phones in 10 models.

 Kenwood’s DNN990HD has built-in WiFi to connect with Kenwood’s server in the cloud.For the New Year, Kenwood is highlighting a high-end radio that seems to do it all: AM/FM analog, HD Radio, SiriusXM, Aha and Pandora. The DNN990HD has built-in WiFi to connect with Kenwood’s server in the cloud to retrieve Inrix information like traffic and weather data. The DNN990HD ships to retailers in April and will list for $1,500.

Hands-free integration with Apple iPhone Siri is featured and in Ford Sync-equipped cars, certain vehicle diagnostics information is displayed. The Sync-compatible receiver “allows you to operate apps and cloud-based content” and share content in the vehicle, according to Kenwood USA Senior Vice President of Consumer Electronics Keith Lehman. The bottom line: “Consumers want connectivity,” he told Radio World.

Pioneer expanded smartphone connectivity support for its AppRadio platform of products; the manufacturer introduced applications and launched a development center to streamline coordination between app developers and Pioneer, reducing the time needed to establish compatibility between apps for in-vehicle use and the company’s platform.

Pioneer now has 10 AppRadio and Advanced App Mode models; drivers can listen to music and use compatible apps and information from their iPhone on the car receiver display. Some three dozen apps are compatible with the platform. New ones include location-based services like Parkopedia and Internet radio like Rdio as well as iHeartRadio for Auto — “iHeartAuto” — Clear Channel’s new digital radio app designed for in-vehicle use.

JacApps Now App Development House for Ford Sync

Ford and Jacobs Media company JacApps are working together to get radio station apps on Ford’s Sync system. The change is an upgrade to the Ford Sync AppLink.

 A Ford display featuring iHeartRadio.The automaker announced that JacApps will be its recommended mobile app development house for the new Ford Developer Program. JacApps has worked with non-broadcasters to build apps as well so any developer with an idea for an app who needs some help building it can turn to JacApps, according to the automaker.

JacApps will provide development and technical support to third-party developers wanting to create voice-activated smartphone apps for Ford Sync AppLink.

Why is app development important for radio?

“The car radio with the big knob is becoming a thing of the past. The dashboard is now a computer,” VP/GM Paul Jacobs told Radio World. He adds that finding individual radio stations on these platforms “is challenging.”

Given that the radio app developer was based in the Detroit metro, working together was a natural fit, Jacobs told Radio World.

Most of the big-screen infotainment systems have only had room for big national app players, like Pandora, NPR or iHeartRadio, until now. “This opens up the door for any individual radio station to have an app. Maintaining relevance in the dash is critical,” said Jacobs.

So far, the station apps will appear as text such as call letters or a station slogan; an icon is planned for a future upgrade. The apps can be for AM, FM, HD Main and multicast channels — any content that is streamed into the app.

Partnering in the announcement was Greater Media, for which JacApps built 16 apps for iPhone and Android. The Greater Media apps with Ford Sync functionality are live in the iTunes App Store and Google Play market.

Stations that want to work with JacApps to get their apps on Ford Sync AppLink would contract with both companies. JacApps will provide support for developers interested in integrating their apps with the Ford Sync AppLink system for voice commands and other functions.

JacApps President Fred Jacobs wrote in a subsequent blog post, “Ford’s AppLink has become the first pathway where anyone and everyone can develop apps for their Sync-enabled vehicles.” But he advised radio stations, “Even if you adapt your apps to be compatible with Ford’s voice commands, you will still want the opportunity to develop apps for the other automakers’ systems. … In order to enjoy distribution with all these automotive brands, radio companies will more than likely have to repeat this process several times. For all their brands.”

GM to Open Up App Development

General Motors revealed a new flexible application framework that it says will allow drivers to add apps and features to their vehicles after the initial purchase, allowing infotainment systems to be upgraded over time.

The framework enables a new set of vehicle application programming interfaces, or APIs, for developers, allowing them to interact with and build upon the infotainment systems in GM vehicles.

The company will offer a software development kit through an online portal at

This will allow developers to work with the carmaker in a secure and controlled manner to design, test and deliver relevant, customizable and integrated automotive apps.

The implementation of these apps is incorporated into new infotainment systems, debuting in some 2014 MY vehicles. The systems’ framework includes an app catalog that will allow car owners to choose from a menu of applications for the “in-vehicle experience.”

GM demonstrated applications from four potential partners for the new app catalog: iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker and The Weather Channel. The catalog, not yet available on GM vehicles, is expected to grow as the company gets ready to launch the new framework.

The automaker says the apps will be unique. “It’s not just taking phone apps and making functional in a car, which most car companies do in some form,” said Chief Infotainment Officer Phil Abram.

“Instead, GM may approve applications that stem from vehicle ownership. For example, customers may choose to download apps that help them in driving more safely or use fuel more efficiently.”

Once these apps are created and have been approved by GM for in-vehicle use, future owners of certain car models will be able to download them to the vehicle through the app catalog.

“GM customers will soon be able to personalize and update their vehicle apps; compared to today, when you buy a vehicle and the infotainment features are fixed and remain the same as long as you own the car,” according to Abram.

iHeartRadio Expands Reach; iHeartAuto Debuts

Clear Channel Media and Entertainment says its iHeartRadio streaming platform is being integrated in more models of Chrysler Group and General Motors vehicles.

At the same time, the broadcaster introduced a made-for-driving application called “iHeartRadio for Auto” or “iHeartAuto,” that will enable standardized access to the digital music platform.

Beginning this year, iHeartRadio will be available in-dash on some Chrysler Group vehicles equipped with Uconnect Access Via Mobile, the company’s suite of connectivity features. Once a user connects a compatible Apple or Android smartphone with the Chrysler Uconnect Access App, the driver can control and personalize iHeartRadio through the dashboard touch screen.

The iHeartRadio for Auto application offers a safety-minded user interface designed to provide access to iHeartRadio’s 1,500 live radio stations while in-vehicle. The new iHeartAuto app will also allow users to create custom stations inspired by artists or songs and provide in-vehicle access to other iHeartRadio features including its thumbs up/thumbs down and station scanning.

The app launched in January with support for Clarion Smart Access cloud server products, Pioneer’s AppRadio platform of products including AppRadio 2 and Kenwood’s connected receiver DNN990HD. The app will offer a new developer protocol that provides manufacturers a standardized method for connecting to the iHeartRadio platform.

In addition to Clear Channel’s 850 radio stations, iHeartRadio includes other groups such as Univision, Cumulus, Greater Media stations, WNYC, EMF’s Contemporary Christian Air1 and K Love stations, college radio, Cox, Emmis and others.

Pandora Product Integrations

Pandora says there are a thousand ways people can listen to its personalized Internet audio service, in 80 cars and auto aftermarket devices and 760 CE devices. That’s compared to some 400 CE devices at this time last year, according to a spokeswoman.

Chrysler Group joined the roster of automotive brands to integrate Pandora into the vehicle, making it the 20th automotive brand partner for Pandora. The company says its audience figures for December showed it had 67.1 million “active listeners,” a 41 percent increase over the same period in 2011.

More Than 10 Automakers to Offer Aha in 2013

Harman has new automotive and content partnerships for its Aha service.

Ford, Chrysler and Porsche join Acura, Honda and Subaru in announcing their integration.

Aha uses the Harman cloud platform to enable Web-based entertainment and information in vehicles, described as a radio-like format familiar to drivers. Some 10 automakers plan to install Aha in their big-screen infotainment platforms by the end of the year.

That represents more than 50 percent of cars sold in the United States and Canada, and up to 30 percent in Europe, according to Aha.

“Aha lets consumers access their favorite Web content as audio preset buttons wherever they go,” said Harman Vice President of Connectivity Robert Acker. He said the service connects people to the Web “in way that makes sense at 65 mph.”

Aha has expanded on the 30,000 stations of audio programming available to its customers. New media partners include AccuRadio, Deezer, Rdio and SomaFM. Location-based audio services from SurfLine, CustomWeather, Hear Planet, Park Visitor and ROXIMITY are launching as Aha programming.

Consumers who want Aha’s personalized listening experience can download Aha’s updated apps for Android and iPhone.

Pure Unveils Jongo

 The Pure Jongo S340B portable, rechargeable wireless speaker will be available in coming months.Pure Audio, which now has a U.S. office in the San Francisco area, unveiled Jongo, the first in what will be a family of wireless multiroom audio products. These allow the user to start with a single speaker and add more Jongo products for synchronized audio around the home. The Jongo multiroom system also supports the second-generation Pure Connect app.

The lightweight devices can be carried around and positioned multiple ways in a room. “People want convenience and a great audio experience,” a spokeswoman told Radio World.

The first Jongo unit is available in the U.S. for pre-order at at $229. The Pure Jongo S340B portable, rechargeable wireless speaker will be available in black, or white with black speaker grills, with optional user-fit colored grill packs in burnt orange, lime green, mango or white.